Allen D. Owings, Gill, Daniel J. | 6/24/2005 6:58:40 PM
February is the ideal month for Louisiana gardeners to plan, prepare and plant roses, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings. At this time of year, new rose bushes can be planted, and established bushes can be given the maintenance they need to get off to a good start this spring.
The horticulturist recommends planting roses from early January through March in Louisiana. He says roses normally are planted as either bare-root bushes obtained from mail order sources or as containers purchased at garden centers.
Owings points out it is critical to plant bare-root roses as soon as possible after they are received. You have some leeway with container plants; these should be planted within a reasonable amount of time after being purchased, but can be held for a few weeks or up to a month if you need to do some bed preparation before planting.
LSU AgCenter horticulturist Daniel J. Gill says before planting new rose bushes, select a well-drained, sunny area. Most roses need at least eight to 10 hours of direct sunlight daily for optimum performance. Morning sun is best for drying foliage and reducing disease problems. Proper bed preparation also is critical for success. Raised beds are essential in a poorly drained area.
In preparing beds, Gill says to amend clay soils with organic matter and sharp sand. Amend sandy soil with organic matter only. He says the ideal height for raised beds is 8-12 inches. Apply a light application of a slow-release complete fertilizer at planting, but be sure to base fertilization programs on soil sample results. The ideal soil pH range recommended for roses is 6.0-6.5.
When planting, dig a hole large enough for root expansion. Prune off all damaged and broken roots, build a cone-shaped mound in the base of the hole and spread the plant roots over this mound. Gill says, "Remember, the bud union, the location on the plant where the shoots have been grafted to the roots, needs to be 2 inches above the soil line." Fill in the planting holes with material used to make the raised bed and water well. After the water drains away, finish backfilling (if needed) and loosely firm the soil around the plant. Remove all dead, damaged, broken and diseased canes after planting.
Owings says mulch is an ideal conclusion to the planting process. Many materials can be used to mulch rose beds, but pine straw probably is the most desirable. A layer 2 inches deep is recommended.
The horticulturist notes that if you have established rose bushes, mid-February (Valentine's Day) is an ideal time for pruning in South Louisiana. This can even be slightly earlier in the New Orleans area and other extreme southern parishes. In North Louisiana, prune during the third week in February (Washington's Birthday).
He says February pruning is recommended for hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda, landscape shrub, hedge and ground cover types of roses. Pruning roses removes dead wood, stimulates new growth, controls size and shape and increases air circulation around the plant. Remove old flowers on bushes throughout the season to stimulate new flower production.
All America Rose Selection winning varieties for 2004 are ‘Day Breaker,’ ‘Memorial Day’ and ‘Honey Perfume.’ In addition, garden centers in Louisiana have numerous other modern and old garden rose varieties that would make a great addition to your landscape.
Additional information on roses and other landscape plants for Louisiana is available on the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com and www.louisianalawnandgarden.org. You can also contact your extension agent at a parish office of the LSU AgCenter for more horticulture and gardening information.